Time to Overthink... like I do... I went to see Beauty and the Beast and what really struck me was that Gaston is everything the prince would have become if the prince hadn't been turned into the beast. The Prince insisted on being surrounded by beauty, or as Gaston said, she's the most beautiful and that makes her the best. So I see this as almost a psychological separation of the same man in two parts. Beast has his beauty stripped from him and Gaston does not. The effects of how the world treats them both influences who they become. Gaston is constantly being fed narcissistic supply by everyone. Because of his charm and good looks people literally sing his praises and are willing to follow him to the point of tormenting an individual they don't know, sheerly because Gaston sways them against the Beast based on appearances.
Both men are focused on Belle but Gaston's interest is purely superficial intending to bend Belle to fill a supporting role to him. Meanwhile though starting off bitter and angry from perceived slights, Beast changes. He is at his most beastly or narcissistic when he feels slighted in the beginning over something minor, a very narcissistic reaction. Anything that threatens a narcissists' ego can elicit an explosive response because it threatens his concept of superiority that he has built this fantasy of a superior self upon.
However the Beast becomes more and more human as he gets to know Belle, becoming more vulnerable, something a narcissist would not allow. For instance how the Beast sputters about Belle reading a romance early on, but later is reading a romantic story. True intimacy is terrifying to a narcissist, because it means surrendering control, which narcissists are adamant about maintaining to the point of manipulating people, bending reality, and rewriting history, though lacking personal self control. So as the Beast is still steeped in narcissism, the world is warped into an eternal winter freezing everyone around him, as narcissism is toxic to those around them.
Eventually as the Beast becomes more open to others, more empathetic, they both compromise and build a relationship. What struck me as a win for the new Beauty and the Beast was when Belle said something to the effect of "can anyone be happy if they are not free". Narcissists can entangle you and if you try to leave, they will try to control you through others. The beast sets her free, a huge step, while Gaston still seeks to manipulate Belle into being his property.
If the prince had stayed handsome with people stroking his ego, telling him he deserved Belle, he would have been Gaston. But the Beast's servants who don't listen to his unreasonable demands, unlike Gaston's followers, try to help the Beast empathize. Society has a lot of influence which is why narcissists work so hard to control it and perception. Without people enabling and feeding a narcissist, it's hard to prop up the fantasy. It takes the very thing they fear most, accountability, to make a real change.
I also note that Agatha, the enchantress, who is kind and saves Belle's father from Gaston, was maligned by both the Beast and Gaston in her lack luster state while showing the beauty of compassion and caring. This is because she had seen through Gaston and the Beast. The narcissist must turn people against anyone who has seen them without their mask and poses a threat, like Maurice. Belle too was not taken in by Gaston and thus he felt compelled to put her under his power. What cannot be controlled must be destroyed. Character assassination and slander are favorite weapons of the narcissist who wields social influence like a gun aimed at any who might call them out or worse, reveal their darkness to others.
The real turning point was very symbolic to me. When the beast is holding Gaston by the neck, he has a choice. In that moment the Beast defies his Gaston nature to force his way, he's releasing that side himself, which then falls away like all bad habits, leaving the holes in himself left by the narcissism bare to the world. The self destructive part of him literally self destructs. In its absence, THAT's when Belle can love the Beast and the spell be broken, when all signs of the malignant narcissist the Beast could have become are gone. At that point he is reborn, a new creature, more mentally healthy and capable of an emotionally healthy relationship. The world around him thaws. And the people he had treated as objects to be used, now become humans, able to be themselves again, in this case literally.
Staying with the Beast was Belle's sacrifice and she was actively trying to escape the beast so long as he was acting like a beast. She was only swayed by his true kindness, something Gaston was incapable of... so while I see feminists protesting this tale because of Gaston's toxic masculinity, I'm actually thankful for it. It is a great metaphor for conquering an internal beast.
Another post mentioned how Gaston is terrifying because everyone knows a Gaston, male and female. The real nemesis of the story to me is malignant narcissism, because the only one who can cure a narcissist is themselves. Therapy won't help, they have to be honest with themselves and their therapist, but are too busy spinning tales and manipulating like they always do. Sadly they enjoy their personality disorder and lack the empathy to truly care about those they hurt so long as they have a steady supply of admirers feeding their egos and pursuing their threats for them.
While a narcissist longs for love, they are their own worst enemies in finding it, unable to empathize, compromise, or even hear when they hurt someone. Narcissists have a quality they think makes them entitled to special treatment and society is all too happy to oblige when it is beauty. To me this is a tale of what happens when a narcissist is stripped of that attribute they think makes them special, and Gaston serves as a reminder of what the prince could have become. Perhaps he would have become more like Humperdink in the Princess Bride, sewn Belle and forced her to be his unhappy bride for the crime of being beautiful. She would might have been forced into fitting a role she was neither suited for nor inclined toward through the royal guards and other terrified flying monkeys crushing her soul, her spirit, and no longer able to invent, but to serve until someone more beautiful came along and she was replaced.
Sadly that is not a fairytale but reality for many women entangled with a narcissist, considering narcissism, while not exclusive to males, is more prevalent and socially acceptable. I believe there is indeed a lesson here and told better in this rendition than the first.